Onsen-hop #19 Okyakuya

Unusually it took three goes today to find an outdoor bath that was open….two others that I still haven`t got round to trying  were both closed for cleaning,although this wasn`t mentioned on the `Daily Onsen Updates` page of the Kurokawa Ryokan Association English website. So…by the time I decided on Okyakuya (御客屋 12 on the English guide map) I was cold,damp and ready to warm up in the bath on this dull,rainy afternoon. It`s quite easy to find,central and just a stone`s throw from Ikoi Ryokan.



Entrance to Okyakuya


Sign explaining that outdoor baths are swapped round once a day.















Once again a maze of stairs and corridors led down to the outdoor bathing area,which is situated very close to the river but doesn`t open onto it directly as in Yamamizuki. A member of staff led me downstairs to the bath ( popping up again just after I`d finished) helpfully showing me the way while explaining that the outdoor baths are swapped over every day at midday. The women`s bath at this time of day was designated as the smaller iron-rich rocky pool (luckily for me it was also partially roofed so I didn`t get rained on) while the men`s bath was the larger one up a further flight of steps.




Rocky bath with iron-rich waters…


Up the steps to the men`s bath (swapped over at midday).















The outdoor bath was simple ,but pleasant and not too hot. An indoor bath with an area for showering also offered various shampoos and body soaps. Signs in Japanese in the outdoor bath explained that showering after a bath is not necessary as it washes off the beneficial hot spring deposits on the skin, so I went home smelling rather earthy and metallic!



No need to shower after a dip (left) and soap is not provided here out of consideration for the environment,particularly the river nearby (right).




Actually…this establishment really likes signs….image

but you can still get lost!











One very important sign on the wall in the outdoor bath explains that there has been an onsen here for over three hundred years,making it the oldest in Kurokawa. Obviously the building is a lot more recent,but the beautiful wooden corridors and stairs certainly give it an air of times gone by.




Hope he enjoyed his bath…













In summary……historical

Would I visit again?  Yes,to try the larger outdoor bath next time.

Staff: Attentive,spoke some English.






Onsen-hop #18 Ryokan Yumotoso

Part of the fun of outdoor bathing in Kurokawa lies in actually finding the establishment,venturing inside then getting lost while negotiating flights of stairs and,in some cases,miles of corridors to reach the bath itself…..so I`ll try not to spoil the fun for you. Ryokan Yumotoso (旅館 湯本荘 ,number 20 on the English map) you can`t miss it,or maybe you can!



Outside the entrance to Yumotoso


To be honest,from the outside I wasn`t expecting much,but inside the Ryokan was warm and welcoming on this wet,winter morning. All the polished wood looked quite old and beautiful . So….off down the stairs and along the corridor we headed,which is almost always a good route to start with…



Nicely polished wood throughout….


Cosy hearth area for a rest after bathing














Once again,with our mid-morning timing we were lucky to avoid the crowds and my friend and I had the small,rocky outdoor bath to ourselves. Although one of the smaller public outdoor baths in Kurokawa all facilities are provided and the ferruginous (iron) spring water here is a fairly unusual (for Kurokawa) brownish colour with an earthy smell. When you leave the bath it`s not necessary to rinse the beneficial hot spring water off,although you may want to check for orangey-brown smudges if you have rubbed against the iron deposits on the rocks in the pool. The waters here are said to be good for treating anemia.



Steamy waters on a winter morning,note the reddish iron deposits!


Unfortunately my friend and I had to rush off  to a meeting,so we didn`t linger in the cosy rest area provided. I really appreciate the fact that this kind of area is provided by most Ryokan,and it is quite acceptable for onsen-hoppers to linger a while and enjoy a drink and a rest before moving on. Also,I realised after I had got dressed that  indoor bathing here  includes a bath in a large sake barrel,although as the baths are swapped over each day it may have been over on the men`s side today anyway.











In summary…..central,with an olde worlde feel

Would I visit again?  Yes,to try the sake barrel bath!

Staff: Helpful,very little English.